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Long distance and phone solutions in Mexico

For many, long distance costs are a consideration while living in Mexico. Cell phone costs can be high. We have summarized here some of the more sustainable long-term solutions for those spending time in Mexico. Changing residences can mean losing a phone number or needing to maintain a long distance number once you move out of your area. Here you will find our most practical advice to simplify telecommunications matters and reduce your costs.

Cellular phones from the US or Canada, if on a monthly plan, will typically work while in Mexico. Over the years, programs have come and gone that included roaming while in Mexico. Verizon had a North America plan that some people still have and that is no longer offered that included more than 1000 minutes and could be used anywhere in Mexico. Mobile phone carriers and long distance carriers have gotten wise to the Mexican market and no longer offer such programs.

Nextel offers some roaming coverage for the push-to-talk radios while in US and Canada and there is some reciprocity. Typically, where mobile phones are concerned, the best solution is to analyze your own usage needs. If you travel a lot within Mexico, you would likely consider a monthly plan solution so that you are not stuck out of calling credit while out of town. Roaming and long distance charges tend to be heavier on pre-paid phones than on monthly plans. As monthly plans change frequently, it is best to consult the specials at the time to see what will work for you.

Iusacell and Telcel are quite competitive in their pricing and packages and also offer mobile internet wi-fi and 3G services. In order to purchase a monthly plan package you will need to lock in for 18 months or more, depending on the package. Most carriers offer in-group discounted talk time so that is another factor to consider when deciding which carrier you would like to sign with. To get a monthly plan, you usually require a Mexican-based credit card, a utility bill, an FM3 and passport.

Movistar and others offer good rates for pre-paid services. They also offer in-group discounts. Check the current offers to see what they have available.

Mexico now allows users to transfer cell phone numbers from one carrier to another, assuming your plan has finished. This has helped pricing become a little more competitive but still cell phone costs remain high compared to what you might expect to see.

For landline services, Telmex has rallied and is offering decent packages, some with internet included. There are other companies now in the larger cities, such as Axtel, Maxcom and others that offer cable-based or voip-based landlines. It looks like none of them include unlimited calling to the US and Canada but they are getting closer. One thing to watch in Mexico is the fact that landlines have a limited number of calls that you can make without being charged, so after the 100 or 200 limit (whatever your line has), you pay per call, even if it’s a local or toll-free call.

As of a few years ago, the policy in Mexico with cell phones is “whoever calls, pays”, so, as long as you are within your local calling area, you do not pay to receive a call but you do pay to make one. Outside your local calling area, roaming charges may apply.

The best portable and workaround solutions that foreigners use while in Mexico are Skype and/or an internet-based voice over internet protocol (VoIP or voice over IP) system, such as Inphonex.

Inphonex has the convenience of having a very flexible control panel. You can obtain a 1 800 number through them or a local phone number in just about any city. The advantage is that you can go on pre-paid long distance (usually cheaper than a package) or packaged pricing, depending on your use. The other advantage is that you can set the system up like a regular home phone, so you can have a cordless phone at home, for comfort and convenience. You can also take the Inphonex box with you wherever you go. The solution is portable in that manner and also portable in the sense that you can program the forwarding to ring simultaneously or sequentially wherever you are. You can have it forward to your Mexican cell, your US cell, your Mexican home phone, etc. and answer wherever you are. You can get Mexican phone numbers for most cities so if you move house or location, you don’t need to change numbers.

With Skype and Inphonex (or other VoIP) providers, the long distance is very inexpensive and in-group calling is free. Many of you have used Skype for voice calls and know that when you call Skype to Skype, the call is free. The same is true for Inphonex and most others.

One thing to consider when thinking about a VoIP solution in Mexico or anywhere is that the call quality can be diminished or poor if you are using the internet while making calls. The reason for this is that the VoIP system uses bandwidth from your internet lines. If you are also surfing, downloading, etc. while trying to make calls, you will have poor call quality possibly. The solutions, aside from the obvious of not surfing while calling, is to use a solution like Inphonex and also get a separate modem for it or get a mobile internet service for your computer (mobile 3G) such as BAM from Iusacell or its like product from Telcel. Your computer would then not be using your modem and it would have more bandwidth available for the call.

Overall, people living in Mexico are looking for solutions to long distance and phone service that are mobile, sustainable, portable and cost effective. It is likely that people will end up paying more than $1,000 pesos per month among their costs for cell phones, landlines, long distance and internet. The information above is written to help you find a way to mitigate such expenses and help you to decide which solutions are best for you. Paying roaming and long distance on cell phones from the US, Canada or Mexico while traveling is out of the question for most.

These tips are something to keep in mind while planning your usage and making your selections.

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